After A Dog Bite; Actions You Can Take
  • You suffer from a dog bite accident
  • You contact a lawyer, and build your case
  • Together we vie for your compensation

“Dog bites can cause severe cosmetic and extensive internal damage to victims. The need for an experienced, trustworthy, personal injury lawyer is as important as ever.”
— Perry Liss, Esq
(215) 372-8669

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Were you or a loved one bit by a dog in Pennsylvania?

If so, you are likely entitled to significant damages compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. However, proving an animal owner’s liability for your resulting injuries can be a complex procedure. Liability is determined based off Pennsylvania state law, the circumstances of the attack, and severity of your resulting injuries. This page was created with the intention of providing victims with a more comprehensive understanding of Pennsylvania dog bite laws. For more information on case eligibility, please visit our guide here.

Are Dog Owners Liable For Their Dogs Actions?

The simple answer is yes. However, in many cases proving liability can still be a rather complex legal struggle.

Pennsylvania Dog Laws

In Philadelphia, or any other household within Pennsylvania, animal owners are required to adhere to a strict “animal confinement” law.

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Dogs must be on their owners’ property, or under the reasonable control of some person. The owners’ property includes keeping dogs inside their owners’ homes, or out in their yard while secured by a collar, or confined within the property by a sufficient fence. If off the property, dogs must be accompanied by a person who can control them at all times, and are not able to roam freely.   dog-behind-fence

Pennsylvania Leash Laws?

Does Pennsylvania have a leash law? The state of Pennsylvania does not have any explicit leash laws, and therefore, do not require dog owners to muzzle or leash their dog. But there is also no law that explicitly states that walking a dog without a leash is legal. In Philly, the law on leashes is much clearer; dogs must be leashed when on walks. The law is presented via the Philadelphia City Code, that instructs residents how to walk dogs within the city. The instructions state that if a dog owner takes their dog off their property, their dog must be leashed and obedient to their owner at all times.

Therefore, if you are a resident of Philadelphia, and you were bitten by an unleashed dog you are likely entitled to full compensation. Furthermore, you won’t need to prove owner negligence, since the owner did not adhere to Philadelphia’s leash law thereby breaking the law. A dog owner who lets their dog run free is likely to be held to strict liability, especially if this isn’t their animal’s first incident. If this is the case, victims are likely entitled to compensation for injuries, however, maximum compensation is based on several other factors.

If you were severely injured, fractured a bone, or received 2 sutures or more, you’re likely entitled to full compensation. This would also be the case if you were bitten by a “dangerous” dog or a dog that has previously bitten someone else. However, in less serious dog bite incidents your attorney will likely need to prove owner negligence.  Damages can extend far beyond medical treatment costs, they can also cover pain and suffering, lost wages, and emotional trauma. Complete compensation will be based on a combination of the severity of injuries, owner negligence, and the dog’s history and breed.

Pennsylvania Is Not A “One Bite” State!

In several states in the U.S., dog owners are given one free pass if their animal attacks for the first time ever. In these states, an attorney must prove that the dog had a vicious purpose, otherwise, the owner isn’t liable for the victim’s injuries. Pennsylvania does not adhere to this foolish law, if you have been injured by a dog bite, the dog owner is responsible for at least a portion of the victim’s damages.

Moreover, if a dog that has previously bitten someone bites another victim, they are considered a “dangerous” dog. In simpler terms, if a “dangerous” dog or a dog with a history of aggressive behavior attacks you, you are likely entitled full compensation regardless of the severity of your injuries. This is based on the principle, that a dog owner is negligent if their pet has previously attacked someone and does so again. As stated previously, if this dog has no history of aggressive behavior, compensation is based on the severity of injuries. Individuals that have been severely injured, are likely entitled to full compensation for medical expenses, and additional damages.

Dangerous Dogs Defined:

A dog is considered dangerous if it has:

  • Severely wounded a human being without provocation
  • Killed or inflicting serious injuries to another animal while off the owner’s property
  • Attacked a human being
  • A history of attacking human beings, or domestic animals without provocation
  • A propensity to attack human beings or domestic animals without provocation

Pennsylvania law states that owners of dogs that fit any of those criteria can be charged with a misdemeanor crime. Owners of dangerous dogs have to register their animal as such and purchase a minimum of $50,000 personal injury insurance to cover potential injuries afflicted by the dog. They must also muzzle their dog on walks, and notify the public of their dangerous dog via child-friendly signage on their property.

What Happens To A Dog That Bites Someone?

In Pennsylvania, if a dog has bitten a human being they must be confined immediately. The officer has the discretion and control over when and where this confinement period occurs. While the confinement within the owner’s home is possible, it is not guaranteed by any means. This period has the primary goal of ensuring that the dog does not have rabies, lasting ten days or more. If the dog has rabies, it is extremely likely that they die during this trial period. After the confinement period, if the dog is rabies-free, the owner is still responsible for the victim’s treatment expenses.

What Happens To The Dog’s Owner?

The owner of a dog that attacks a human can be charged with a misdemeanor, legally known as “harboring a dangerous dog.”

If the owner is convicted they must:

  1. Register the animal as a “dangerous dog” on an annual basis with Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.
  2. Confine the dog to ensure safety for guests on property.
  3. Post a child-friendly sign, warning the community of your dangerous dog.
  4. Muzzle your dog on walks
  5. Spay or Neuter the dog
  6. Implant a microchip in the dog for identification

The owner is also at the mercy of the court to pay compensation to the victim.

Provoking, Trespassing, & Police Dog Laws

private-property-signIf you were bitten by a dog while trespassing on the dog owners’ property you are not protected by these laws. Additionally, if you were actively abusing or tormenting the dog, or have previously done so, you are also not offered these legal protections. Police dogs are protected from liability when a police dog bites someone in the act of making an arrest. This is specifically for individuals who were committing or attempting to commit a crime or a suspect in a crime. However, if a police dog attacks “beyond the scope of law enforcement,” victims can deem the police department responsible for any resulting injuries.

Defining Bites & Suing For Non-Bite Injuries:

Pennsylvania Dog Law typically uses the term bite to reference the cause of most injuries. There is no explicit legal definition of what a “bite” is contained in Pennsylvania’s dog bite laws, so most courts use the dictionary definition of “bite.” Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines a bite as “to press down or to cut into (someone or something) with teeth or to grab and hold something without slipping.” Victims can often also sue for non-bite injuries such as any form of damage resulting from clawing, or being knocked down. Strict liability can be applied to both bite, and non-bite victims in Pennsylvania depending on the severity of a victim’s injuries.

Contact An Expert Philadelphia Dog Bite Lawyer

All Philadelphia dog bite victims are entitled to compensation from the dog’s owner for at least medical expenses. As touched on above, further compensation may be granted to victims depending on additional violations of Pennsylvania dog laws. The personal injury lawyers at Dog Bite Lawyer Philly have assisted victims for the past decade, and believe that their unique blend of experience and compassion can best serve all victims. Our law firm is currently offering all victims a complimentary legal consultation, and will only receive their attorney fee if they can secure a client a substantial settlement or winning a trial verdict. Take the first step in maximizing your potential damages compensation by contacting our law firm today, our experienced team of attorneys is expertly equipped to assist all victims.

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